Friday, November 11, 2011

Knobbed Russet

Its brooding appearance is daunting, but this was far from the most grotesque sample of this unusual apple. Others were so deformed as to be unrecognizable as part of any living organism, let alone as an apple.

Instead, the medium-sized sample I chose shows a little of everything: Yellow skin, mottled translucent orange blush, and disfiguring russet. Or perhaps its knobby bulges are not related to the russet at all. Small lenticels, where visible, are mostly russeted.

Where not deformed this apple seems to be modestly ribbed. Its calyx is open and it feels firm and solid. It glowers.

As I contemplate this unusual variety, I wonder: What if this is not just a curiosity? What if it's really good?

Only one way to find out.

The flesh of the aptly named Knobbed Russet is fine-grained and dense, a light yellow. It's not terribly juicy or crisp, but it presents a pleasant sweet-tart balance, lively and a little spicy, but without much specific flavor.

Reach and you may find a little pear with lemon juice, and also a minor savory accent, but this apple is on the bland side and these faint flavors fade. Not unpleasant, but not special either.

Wikipedia says the Knobbed Russet originated in Sussex in 1819, and is also known as Knobby Russet, Winter Russet, and Old Maid's Winter Apple.

16 comments:

  1. I have never seen one in person but of the photos I have seen this example would win the best in show. Most of these apples have more knobs and look like they have some sort of apple disease. Unless the taste is fantastic I would think of it only as an odd/curious apple best left for the critters to eat.

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    1. I saw plenty that looks like rocks or hunks of tree bark. They weren't even especially round.

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  2. i get so tired of people tasting with their eyes. i disagree with you about the knobbed russets taste. have you ever has a common grocery store apple? they are bland. the knobbed russet was better by far than a fuji, honeycrisp, or gala.

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  3. @Anony, I call them as I see them. (And saying an apple is better than Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Gala is faint praise in my view.)

    Please feel free to share your own impressions of this unusual variety.

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  4. I've put one in my front garden, I chose it to stop people picking them as they pass as they look inedible.
    Yes I agree they look ugly, but they taste like any other russet.
    So don't discard them just on looks, try one.

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    1. I tried two. Okay, but did not feel they measured up to most russets I've had.

      Maybe I should revisit, but I'm thinking of the knobby one as a sort of novelty apple.

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  5. We have these on our farm and find them to be delicious, very 'apple' tasting compared to the bland things in grocery stores which look great but have no flavour.

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    1. @Anon: The bland things in groceries are a low bar, but I will give this another try when I can.

      As you can see it underwhelmed me the first time. But we'll see, and thanks for the encouragement!

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  6. Seed Savers Exchange new catalog says Knobbed Russet "Voted best tasting apple at 2013 Des Moines "Forgotten Tastes" apple event." SSE cataglog describes its taste: "Amazing intense sweet/subacid flavor." BTW I have no idea what "subacid"means. We need MUCH better descriptions to sell heirlooms to the public. And we need a mailorder source of heirloom apples, not trees, so Harry Homeowner can taste the apples before buying trees or scions.

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    1. Hi Steve! I had another of these this fall. It had better flavor but still did not knock my socks off.

      "Sub-acid" means, as far as I can tell, a well-balanced zone of flavor in which some tempering tartness may be is present in the background only. It is the sweet spot for apple taste.

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  7. PS I was referring to vague taste descriptions in apple tree catalogs, not your blog where the descriptions are a model of detail.

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    1. ...or, as some might have it, where the descriptions are obsessive!

      But it's what I do, and thanks for the compliment.

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  8. Where can I buy one of these
    .

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  9. Where can I buy one of these
    .

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    1. Matt, you'll have to find a grower.

      Here in New England I know that Scott Farm, in Dummerston, Vermont, grows these.

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